Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Kings Norton Nature Reserve 13/12/15

On Sunday I took my last trip of the year to my local patch, Kings Norton Nature Reserve (I'll be in York over the Christmas break). It was another grey and gloomy day; we seem to have been having rather a lot of those recently. I went out in the early afternoon and conditions became increasingly foggy as the day wore on - by the time I left the visibility was fairly dreadful!

I saw 33 species, of which one was new for me at this site, taking my total after nine visits to 52 species. Here are the highlights!
  • Today's new species was a Pied Wagtail flying over, near Wychall Reservoir.
  • Goldcrests, Goldcrests, everywhere. I keep religiously checking each one just in case of wintering Firecrests, probably a bit optimistic but you never know.... 
  • My highest count yet of Tufted Ducks on Merecroft Pool, 13. A slightly more modest (compared to previous highs) 14 Teal on Wychall Reservoir.
  • A smattering of Siskins in the tall pines on the far side of Merecroft Pool (in back gardens).
Merecroft Pool
Mist-erious Merecroft Pool!
The area behind the dam (HDR).

I was a bit short of time this week so skipped the area not open to the public and the west extension; still managed a fairly respectable list though. After all the recent rain water levels were looking as high as I've seen them so far - my last visit was the first time I'd seen water flowing from Merecroft Pool into the overflow next to the dam, and today the volume of water seemed to have increased slightly:

Lots of water flowing through the nature reserve as a whole, good to see it playing its part in soaking up the rainfall and helping protect the surrounding area from flooding. 

I would probably not risk crossing these now!


Blackbird Great Tit Mute Swan
Black-headed Gull Greenfinch Nuthatch
Blue Tit Grey Heron Pied Wagtail (yarrellii)
Bullfinch Grey Wagtail Robin
Carrion Crow Herring Gull Siskin
Coal Tit Jackdaw Song Thrush
Coot Lesser Black-backed Gull Teal
Feral Pigeon Long-tailed Tit Tufted Duck
Goldcrest Magpie Water Rail
Goldfinch Mallard Woodpigeon
Great Spotted Woodpecker Moorhen Wren

Monday, 14 December 2015

Mere Sands Wood & RSPB Marshside

Bit tardy posting this - I went a bit HDR-crazy on this trip and it's taken me a while to find time to process all the photos!

Last Sunday I was off with the West Midland Bird Club again for our monthly trip. This time we were heading to Lancashire to visit two places new to the Club - Mere Sands Wood and RSPB Marshside.

Mere Sands Wood was first up but before we'd even got there the day was off to a great start with a hunting Barn Owl spotted from the coach en route, hurrah! Upon arrival we first inspected the feeders outside the visitor centre where we found a fairly standard line-up of the usual suspects; this included a nice Nuthatch. We then set off around the reserve which consists of woodland of varying ages surrounding a few lakes; from the hides overlooking the lakes we found various waterfowl including Goosander, Shoveler, Pochard, Great Crested Grebe and plenty of Teal, as well as a Kingfisher nice and close! In the woodland we found quite a few mixed feeding flocks of Goldcrests, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits; myself and a few others also saw a shy Treecreeper. There were also other woodland birds aplenty including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Mistle Thrush and Redwing. Towards the end of the route as we approached the visitor centre again we also found Bullfinch and Siskin in the treetops, and back at the feeders the cast had expanded to include Coal Tit and three lovely Tree Sparrows. I was well pleased with these as it was a year tick....nice to still have my year list expanding at this late stage!

Mere Sands Wood (HDR).
Mere Sands Wood (HDR).
Mere Sands Wood (HDR).
Mere Sands Wood (HDR).
Mere Sands Wood (HDR).
Mere Sands Wood (HDR).
Mere Sands Wood (HDR).
Mere Sands Wood (HDR).
Mere Sands Wood (HDR).

Next we trundled over to RSPB Marshside; before we'd even got off the coach I'd already spotted a couple of Snipe flying over! The reserve looked very promising with its expanses of marshland peppered with waders and waterfowl; we decided to walk a clockwise circuit down Marshside Road, past the golf course then back towards the saltmarsh and along Marine Drive. We were soon enjoying hundreds of Wigeon, Teal, Black-tailed Godwit, Pink-footed Goose, Lapwing, along with smaller numbers of Grey Plover, Redshank, Golden Plover, Curlew and Snipe. We also saw Lesser and Great Black-backed Gulls helpfully in close proximity to aid comparison, and a couple of Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails. The most exciting moment came when we bumped into some other members of our group who had seen a Ross's Goose from the visitor centre.....I tried to dredge up what I could remember about Ross's Goose (North American, white, small and cute like a Barnacle Goose!). We hot-footed it over there and were soon enjoying the goose for ourselves. The RSPB volunteer working in the visitor centre told us it had visited the previous winter too, and that although it was most likely to be an escapee from a collection rather than the genuine article, they couldn't say for sure. It mainly associated with Mallards which suggested an originally more domesticated setting, but didn't have a ring or any other identifying marker to indicate a captive origin. Anyway it was indeed a cute little chap regardless of its origin.

Distant Ross's Goose.
Flock of Black-tailed Godwits.
RSPB Marshside (HDR).
RSPB Marshside (HDR).
RSPB Marshside (HDR).
We ended our day as the sun set watching over the saltmarsh for any signs of hunting owls or raptors; unfortunately we didn't see any but didn't mind too much having already had a fairly splendid day.

Saltmarsh (HDR).
Sunset over the marsh (HDR).
Sunset over the marsh (HDR).

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Kings Norton Nature Reserve 08/12/15

On Tuesday (for a change this week, as I'd had a very busy weekend with no local patch time!) I took my weekly visit to Kings Norton Nature Reserve. I'd forgotten that Tuesday is their weekly volunteer day, and when I arrived, encountered a veritable army of volunteers enthusiastically whacking various bits of undergrowth - no wonder I notice new signs of recent habitat management work so frequently on my visits! One of the volunteers turned out to be a former fellow Open University student so it was nice to catch up with him; I had a chat with another volunteer too who had been recording birds on the site for many years.

I saw 36 species, of which two were new ones for me at this site, taking my total after eight visits to 51 species. I'd hoped to reach at least 50 by Christmas so have smashed that target! Here are my highlights:
  • Finally saw a Green Woodpecker - hurrah. The birder I spoke to said he'd not seen any over the past few months either so it's not just me!
  • Another one I'd been expecting at some point - House Sparrows, near to the west end of the reserve adjacent to some houses and back gardens (unsurprisingly) along Wychall Road.
  • A Song Thrush doing what I can only describe as 'tuning up' - it was making some truly bizarre noises, snatches of which sounded like usual Song Thrush song, but most of which just sounded peculiar. Again I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of Song Thrushes around on the reserve generally.
  • Loads of Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests - my walk along the narrowest stretch of the River Rea corridor east of Wychall Reservoir was accompanied pretty much the whole way by these little squeaky fluff-balls. 
  • I heard two Water Rails by Wychall Reservoir. Despite loitering there for ages I didn't manage to see them though!
  • Three Grey Herons on Merecroft Pool.
No Teals this time on the reservoir - they often seem to turn up later in the day, I've had more luck seeing them when I've visited in the afternoon (today's was a late morning/lunchtime visit). Someone told me via Twitter that the Goosanders I'd seen a few times do the rounds of local lakes so the fact that I haven't seen them recently probably just means they've been on other water bodies nearby.

A few wintery scenes from the reserve - it was mostly too windy again for many HDRs: 

Wychall Reservoir (HDR).

House Sparrows on the left, back gardens on the right.

Marsh west of Wychall Reservoir.

Marsh west of Wychall Reservoir.

Marsh west of Wychall Reservoir.

Reedbed west of Wychall Reservoir.

Lovely Teasels.

Blackbird Great Spotted Woodpecker Magpie
Black-headed Gull Great Tit Mallard
Blue Tit Green Woodpecker Moorhen
Bullfinch Greenfinch Mute Swan
Buzzard Grey Heron Nuthatch
Carrion Crow Grey Wagtail Robin
Chaffinch Herring Gull Song Thrush
Coal Tit House Sparrow Starling
Coot Jackdaw Tufted Duck
Dunnock Jay Water Rail
Goldcrest Lesser Black-backed Gull Woodpigeon
Goldfinch Long-tailed Tit Wren

Friday, 4 December 2015

A Christmas Willow Tit

I haven't posted many paintings of late, because I've been working on a 'proper' painting which I've been taking a bit more time over (more on that at a later date), and also have produced a new painting which you can now buy on a Christmas card!

I felt this was a good excuse to paint one of my favourite birds, a Willow Tit. Whilst not exactly Christmassy, they do fill me with wintery feelings, as they are hardy little birds able to survive very harsh conditions due to their awesome food-caching skills! I plan to donate 25% of the retail price of the cards to the BTO, so if you like Christmas, Willow Tits, and raising money to fund bird research, head over to my shop now :o) or if you're likely to see me any time soon and would like to buy some cards, just let me know!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Kings Norton Nature Reserve 28/11/15

I was back for my weekly stroll around my local patch Kings Norton Nature Reserve on Saturday. This time it was one of the Friends of Kings Norton Nature Reserve's monthly guided walks; however in contrast to the well-attended previous walk I'd been on, the only other person on this one was the chap leading it, Alastair. Luckily he was happy to still go for a walk despite the low turnout! We started by checking out Merecroft Pool before proceeding along the River Rea path and around the back of Wychall Reservoir and its surroundings. It was good to meet another of the Friends of KNNR - I learnt some more about the site's history and management, as well as some new bits to explore, and also a way in to the area officially closed to the public that doesn't require a key (just a bit of scrambling!).

After last week's Woodcock-based excitement, I was wondering if I might have another similar sighting, or perhaps see some other wintery visitor. I saw 37 species, of which three were new ones for me at this site, taking my total after seven visits to 49 species. 50 by Christmas is looking very doable! :o) I didn't see a Woodcock on this visit, but yet again Kings Norton Nature Reserve surprised me! Here are my highlights:
  • As I'd been hoping, Lesser Redpolls have now arrived for the winter. We had lovely views of four feeding on reed seedheads and perching in the tops of willows around Wychall Reservoir. When I came back along this way a bit later, there were five. Another new species for my patch list.
  • We had pretty much finished our walk when we stopped to watch a flock of Long-tailed Tits pass by near Wychall Reservoir. I then spotted a woodpecker high in a mature willow, pecking away quietly; a look through the binoculars revealed it was a little scrappy-looking fellow with a very stripy back. LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER!! This was another new patch tick and also a year tick - in fact it's only the second Lesser Spotted Woodpecker I've ever seen in my life! As such I was very excited indeed. Helpfully a Great Spotted Woodpecker also appeared nearby allowing us to compare the two. I did attempt to photograph the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but my results were rather pitiful! However now I know they're there (they? I hope there's more than one anyway), I'll know to look out for them and maybe I'll be able to get a decent photo in time.
  • A flock of Feral Pigeons flying over was the other new species I saw - not so exciting, but still a tick.
  • Siskins have also now well and truly arrived after the brief flyovers I'd had previously. There were a few large flocks around feeding on Alders, mixed up with Goldfinches. Other finch species (Bullfinch, Chaffinch and Greenfinch) were also in evidence to a greater extent than on previous visits.
  • We heard Water Rail again in one of the creeks leading to Wychall Reservoir.
It was a bit too windy for HDR photos as shown by the first pic below! I took a few other wintery snaps however...

Too windy - a poorly aligned HDR photo!

Loooads of Teasels.
The remains of some kind of umbellifer seedhead I think - these always remind me of exploding fireworks.
Moss & lichen.


Blackbird Great Tit Mute Swan
Black-headed Gull Greenfinch Redwing
Blue Tit Grey Heron Robin
Bullfinch Grey Wagtail Siskin
Carrion Crow Herring Gull Song Thrush
Chaffinch Jackdaw Starling
Coot Jay Stock Dove
Dunnock Lesser Redpoll Teal
Feral Pigeon Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Tufted Duck
Fieldfare Magpie Water Rail
Goldcrest Mallard Woodpigeon
Goldfinch Moorhen Wren
Great Spotted Woodpecker